Manfred: Incantation

Original Text: 
Byron, Works, 17 vols. (London: John Murray, 1832-33). PR 4351 M6 1832 ROBA.
193      And the glow-worm in the grass,
194And the meteor on the grave,
195      And the wisp on the morass;
196When the falling stars are shooting,
197And the answer'd owls are hooting,
198And the silent leaves are still
199In the shadow of the hill,
200Shall my soul be upon thine,
201With a power and with a sign.
202Though thy slumber may be deep,
203Yet thy spirit shall not sleep;
204There are shades which will not vanish,
205There are thoughts thou canst not banish;
206By a power to thee unknown,
207Thou canst never be alone;
208Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
209Thou art gather'd in a cloud;
210And for ever shalt thou dwell
211In the spirit of this spell.
212Though thou seest me not pass by,
213Thou shalt feel me with thine eye
214As a thing that, though unseen,
215Must be near thee, and hath been;
216And when in that secret dread
217Thou hast turn'd around thy head,
218Thou shalt marvel I am not
219As thy shadow on the spot,
220And the power which thou dost feel
221Shall be what thou must conceal.
222And a magic voice and verse
223Hath baptiz'd thee with a curse;
224And a spirit of the air
225Hath begirt thee with a snare;
226In the wind there is a voice
227Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
228And to thee shall night deny
229All the quiet of her sky;
230And the day shall have a sun,
231Which shall make thee wish it done.
232From thy false tears I did distil
233An essence which hath strength to kill;
234From thy own heart I then did wring
235The black blood in its blackest spring;
236From thy own smile I snatch'd the snake,
237For there it coil'd as in a brake;
238From thy own lip I drew the charm
239Which gave all these their chiefest harm;
240In proving every poison known,
241I found the strongest was thine own.
242By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
243By thy unfathom'd gulfs of guile,
244By that most seeming virtuous eye,
245By thy shut soul's hypocrisy;
246By the perfection of thine art
247Which pass'd for human thine own heart;
248By thy delight in others' pain,
249And by thy brotherhood of Cain,
250I call upon thee! and compel
251Thyself to be thy proper Hell!
252And on thy head I pour the vial
253Which doth devote thee to this trial;
254Nor to slumber, nor to die,
255Shall be in thy destiny;
256Though thy death shall still seem near
257To thy wish, but as a fear;
258Lo! the spell now works around thee,
259And the clankless chain hath bound thee;
260O'er thy heart and brain together
261Hath the word been pass'd--now wither!


192] Manfred, sub-titled "a dramatic poem," was written in 1816, and revised and published in 1817. The incantation (really a curse on Manfred) is spoken by an unidentified voice over the senseless body of the hero in the opening scene of the poem, but it was first published separately in The Prisoner of Chillon and Other Poems (1816), where it is referred to in a mystifying note as "a Chorus in an unfinished Witch Drama, which was begun some years ago." These circumstances and the contrast of style and rhythm between stanzas 1 to 4 and 5 to 7 have led to much conjecture about the poem's origins. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.496.